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Best Ways to Recycle and Compost Dog Waste for Free

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

How to compost your dog's waste.

How to compost your dog's waste.

Can You Compost Dog Poop?

Dog waste should be composted, not put into a septic tank. It heats up enough to destroy pathogens and provides nutrients that can be utilized in your yard and under your trees. Composting dog waste also keeps tons of material from being added to a landfill or sewer system that is already overwhelmed.

This article will explain how to correctly make a compost heap out of your dog's waste without buying all of those things other sites are trying to sell you.

It is unfortunate that since the introduction of Steve Solomon's great Organic Gardeners Composting back in the 1980s, so many people have followed his suggestions without reasoning them out. Mr. Solomon—unaware of how to correctly compost dog stools to destroy parasites—recommended that dog waste not be added to compost. Since then, most articles recommend the same. For 15 years, there have been sites on the internet that claim to be “composting” dog waste but are actually proposing the construction of small sewage systems.

Yes, You Can Compost Your Pet’s Poop

This article is not about teaching you how to build a dog waste septic system. If you want to do that, you can go out and buy a barrel and then there are about a hundred other sites on the internet that will show you what to do. Sewage systems that require the purchase of large plastic containers and chemical inoculants are neither friendly to the environment nor friendly to your budget.

This article will tell you the benefits of correctly composting your dog's stool and also tell you how to do it properly. If you have a cat, and you use biodegradable litter, her waste can be added also.

Dog poop should not be thrown in a bin and ignored. The problem is yours.

Dog poop should not be thrown in a bin and ignored. The problem is yours.

Why Bother Composting Dog Waste?

Each year, tons of dog stools are thrown into trash cans and end up in sanitary landfills. When dog waste is composted, it becomes a nutrient that will improve your yard and trees. When your soil is lacking in organic matter, no amount of chemical fertilizer you purchase is going to improve things the way you want. The compost you produce, with the material you already have on hand (dog waste), will improve things the way you want.

If you live in an apartment, I realize that this is not a viable option. You have nowhere to compost and wouldn’t have anything to do with the compost anyway.

Are There Problems With Using Dog Waste in Compost?

There are some pathogens that can spread from dogs to humans. Most of the bacteria will die easily, and in The Humanure Handbook (Chapter 7, Worms and Disease), the author says that roundworms can survive for 90 days in a shady area.

The University of Minnesota did some research in this area and determined that in order to destroy harmful worm eggs, your compost would need to exceed 165 degrees for five days. The University of Oregon ran tests and determined that a compost pile that reached 130 degrees and was turned five times (at three-day intervals) would no longer contain pathogens.

Do something about your dog´s poop.

Do something about your dog´s poop.

If you live in a suburb and only have a small space, you really need to build or buy a compost system. I have added a plan here and there are numerous videos available on YouTube to help you build a compost bin. If you need further instructions on how to utilize this composting system, you can purchase an e-book called Humanure Toilet Instruction Manual.

If your space is smaler and you want an easy composter, just use a trash can.

If your space is smaler and you want an easy composter, just use a trash can.

If you have more room, a compost bin can be easily built for your dog´s waste.

If you have more room, a compost bin can be easily built for your dog´s waste.

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How Do I Compost Dog Waste the Right Way?

You do not need to buy a storage bin, and you certainly do not need to buy a chemical to add to your compost mixture. The process is ridiculously simple.

  1. Mark the area where you will be composting. Some people will need to do it in a trash bin to save space, and if you have a smaller backyard this is the best way. If you need to save money find an old trash bin that someone is throwing out—just drill holes around the side and in the bottom of the trash bin and put it in the place where you want to make your compost. (If you have a larger yard you might want to build a compost bin out of old wood or pallets that you can get for free; if you live on a farm just make a pile and do not even bother building a structure to hold the compost.)
  2. When you pick up a shovel full of dog stool, cover it with a shovel full of carbon material like grass clippings. (Since the carbon: nitrogen ratio of dog stool is about 6:1—similar to chicken manure and much better than cow manure—you only need to add about one scoop of carbon material to cover two scoops of stool.) I have a friend who is a carpenter so I always have access to wood shavings; that is what I use. If you want to use grass clippings that is fine, and since they rot quickly they are even a better choice.
  3. Every few days, toss a shovel full of old compost onto the pile so that there will be beneficial bacteria to speed up the digestion (if you need a rigid schedule do it every Monday and Thursday). If you are starting out, just use dirt from your garden. If you have seen those other sites that tell you to buy a product and dump it on top of your compost, do not buy! Those "starter bacteria" are all found in dirt and you do not need to waste your money.
  4. Keep the pile moist; if you have fish add their water when you are cleaning out their tank.
  5. Optional: If you really want to produce high-quality compost, add some worms. (This is called vermicomposting.) You will need to add fruit peelings and coffee grounds as an additional feed for the worms but they will also eat the dog stool. They will produce a high-quality fertilizer. By the time the worms have consumed your dog stool compost, you will have high-quality humus that will contain no pathogens. There are many articles available on how to farm red worms and if you want to go this direction you really should read more. If you run into any that tell you not to use dog waste, they are wrong. They are repeating incorrect information.

An acquaintance of mine has an organic coffee plantation; he maintains all of the plants only on humus produced by his worms. If you have purchased organic coffee at Starbucks or your grocery store then you already use humus. If you use worms you will be able to produce your own.

If you are fecophobic, you can add dog waste in biodegradable bags to your compost heap. It is going to take many more years to return to soil if you use this method, and I certainly do not suggest trying to add worms as they will have nothing to feed on.

Will Medications in Dog Feces Affect Worms or Insects?

Some dogs are given a monthly topical flea control or now take an oral flea control. These medications work in several ways but most of them affect the nervous system of insects. Those that do not cause the insect´s exoskeleton to not form correctly.

Heartworm preventatives like Heartgard contain ivermectin, a chemical that could potentially affect worms, but the concentration is very small and would be unlikely to have any effect. Newer heartworm preventatives may have some effect.

If you are willing to spend the time to compost your dog´s stool, I hope that you use natural flea control instead of applying yet another chemical to your dog.

Young papaya trees will thank you for the dog waste compost.

Young papaya trees will thank you for the dog waste compost.

How to Use Dog Poop After Composting

I would not eat a teaspoonful of dog waste compost. Neither would I eat a teaspoonful of humanure compost, chicken manure compost, or even fresh dirt. If you have maintained a proper composting system, the product will have no pathogens, and I recommend it be used on your lawn, on ornamental bushes, and around your trees. I have about a dozen coconut and many banana trees that are always searching for additional nutrients. If you have fruit trees, a hedge, or a lawn, they will appreciate the compost and pay you back by flourishing.

The compost is ready to be used when it looks like regular soil. I cannot tell you an exact amount of time because it will vary depending on your environmental conditions. If you live in the northern US, your compost heap will not even heat up during the winter; here in the tropics (and with a healthy worm population working on my compost), my pile is usually ready to spread in about three months. I have compost piles in several areas and tend to leave them longer.

If you want to destroy our environment by selfishly throwing your dog's stool into landfills, flushing it down the toilet, or (even worse) buying a product that freezes the feces before you pick it up just so that the task will be a little easier, perhaps you are not the type of person who should even be owning a dog.

Think about it.

All dogs produce waste, so get rid of it correctly.

All dogs produce waste, so get rid of it correctly.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have four and sometimes more dogs. They produce 2-3 lbs of waste daily, and are fed a primarily raw diet. Do I need to turn the compost pile? And if so, how often? Will I need any additional enzymes, or will grass clippings, leaves and dirt alone do it?

Answer: You do not need to add enzymes or other additives. The material that you add will have bacteria that will allow the compost to develop naturally.

Yes, you need to turn it a few times until it is digested. I usually wait until the compost bin is full and then turn the whole pile into my next bin. Do so again in a month or two (depending on how warm it is where you are at.)

Question: In his book entitled "How to Start a Worm Bin" Henry Owens states not to use "dog or cat poop" that it is "toxic" and that "flea-killing meds can be especially toxic". I would think that the chemicals would have long since broken down, since flea meds need to be administered routinely or the dog is not protected. Would you speak to this?

Answer: People like Henry Owens are repeating stupid things they read from books and have no idea what is toxic. There is nothing wrong with using dog fecal material since, as you point out, any trace amount of chemical would have broken down in the months that the compost is decomposing. Even if there were a trace left in the feces, none of the flea preventatives are toxic to worms or lower worm fertility.

Question: I have had a puppy for two months now, and would like to compost its waste. What do you do about the smell? The trash can smells pretty bad when poop is tied up in disposal bags in it. Wouldn't the smell be worse if the poop were just loose in a compost pile? Also, in Indiana, I will probably have to use a bin, since a pile will be covered with snow in the winter.

Answer: As long as you use plenty of grass clippings to cover the dog stool each time you toss it on the compost, there is no smell. It does not stink like the stool in the trash because it is covered up and starts breaking down as soon as you add it to the compost.

I use wood shavings to cover my pile, and in your area, you will probably need to use leaves in the fall and winter.

I would not worry about the snow. The heat from the compost will probably melt the snow on top, and the moisture will leach into your compost. Just keep a bag or pile of leaves next to your compost pile or bin to throw on top of the stool as you add it.

Question: I made a DIY dog composer out of a storage tote. Following directions from the pet project, I added Roebic septic treatment to jump-start the microbes. Unfortunately during the process of adding the septic starter my lovely dog bumped me and I fell in the hole, so the entire bottle of septic starter was added. The bottle says it is used to treat up to 500 gallons. I do not plan on using the compost at all. Should I be concerned?

Answer: I am not familiar with that brand because I never buy those septic starters. They are not necessary since they are only bacteria. Bacteria are everywhere, and when I start a compost heap I throw on a little soil (which, by the way, contains bacteria).

There is nothing wrong with that compost and you can use it when it is ready. That 500 gallon number means nothing as it is just a number made up by someone at the factory. No, you should not be concerned.

Question: Can you dispose of dog poop in your toilet?

Answer: Yes, and it is easy to do, ecologically irresponsible, and causes a heavy work load on the sewage system of the municipality in which you live.

This is no better than dumping your plastic bags full of dog poop into your landfill, and not a good thing to do.

Question: Can wood ashes be used as a carbon product when composting dog feces?

Answer: Ashes are just minerals that are left over after the carbon has been destroyed in the fire. They are great to add but should be layered on after you put down the dog feces and grass clippings or leaves (the carbon source).

Water will help the ashes mix into the compost. When your compost is full, and you are ready to turn it into the next pile, the wood ashes will be mixed in even more. Your compost will be great.

Question: Could I follow this guide for composting dog waste if I wanted to set up this in a large scale for a shelter holding about 50-60 dogs?

Answer: Yes, but you will have to be sure that you have an adequate and consistent carbon source (like grass clippings or leaves). Some people keep a bale of straw next to the compost pile since it is available at all times.

If you do not cover the feces adequately each time it is added it will build up flies and will stink.

Question: I have considered this several times, but I live in Minnesota. Is there any issues you see or modifications you would make given that the compost bin will be frozen for several months of the year?

Answer: I think the main thing you will have to account for is the cold will make the digestion process last a lot longer. I start a compost pile about every 3 months; if I were in your area I would not want to do so more than once a year. Let the pile build so that it will heat up in the spring and summer and do not even think of using it until the compost appears to be digested dirt.

Question: You mention that it is bad for the environment to flush dog poop down the toilet. Why, then, do the EPA, NRDC and National Association of Clean Water Agencies recommend this method?

Answer: Compared to the enviornmental damage done by wrapping dog waste in plastic and adding it to an already overburdened landfill, flushing down a toilet is a better alternative. What happens though? The d